Between all the ups-and-downs of crashing out of the Champions League semi-final and losing on PKs in their opening round of the US Open Cup in the span of a week, it’s easy for the fact that Union have won three straight in MLS play and are up to 5th in the Eastern Conference to fly under the radar. But it’s true! And on top of that, Union will return to Subaru Park in their first of two home games this week against D.C. United Wednesday night.
Union vs DC United Preview
Last season, Union put a stomping on D.C. United, beating them both home and away by an aggregate score of 13-0, the biggest goal differential between two teams in MLS history. But things feel a bit different around D.C. this season. Can Union use a big performance against D.C. to jump-start their season like they did last year?
2023 MLS Season so far
As I said before, there’s been a bit of a shift at D.C. United this season since Wayne Rooney has come in, gotten the tools he’s asked for, and had time to put his fingerprints on this team. They’re not cup contenders by any means, but they’re starting to get results in games they wouldn’t have last season, and they’re certainly much harder to play against.
Through the first 12 games of the season so far, D.C. United have a record of four wins, three draws, and five losses for a total of 15 points, which has them occupying the final playoff position in the East at the moment. In their last 5 games, they’ve got 3 wins, a loss, and a draw,(WWWLD), which included wins at Montreal, at Orlando City, and at home against Charlotte, and a late equalizer to draw against Nashville.
Their top two goal scorers are Christian Benteke with five goals and Taxi Fountas with three. Mateusz Klich leads the team with three assists. D.C. currently sits tied at 8th in the league overall for goals scored with 16, are 4th best in assists with 12. Despite being pretty high in goal and assistant totals, D.C. sits pretty low on the totem pole in categories like expected goals. Shots, shots on target, shots on target per 90 minutes, and shot distance, which might conclude that D.C. is looking to beat you on the break.
For D.C. United, I’m going to have to go with Christian Benteke, as it does seem like he’s going to start after missing last Saturday’s game again Nashville. Benteke, a former Premier League player, still has a lot of threat to offer for DC in the attack despite being later in his career. He’s big, aggressive, can Crete space, hold the ball up, link up and get others into the attack, and most importantly score goals. If Benteke is in the lineup, he’s going to be a hand full for Union’s backline.
On the other side of the ball, I’m going to pick whoever plays as the defensive midfielder for Union, whether it be Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, or Andres Perea. Jesus Bueno won’t be eligible as he got a red card at the end of last Saturday’s match. Whoever it is, is going to be really instrumental in keeping D.C. midfield in check, breaking up their attack, and getting the ball going the other way.
Luckily for Union, most names are healthy, but that unfortunately doesn’t mean they’ve got their whole roster. Brandan Craig, Quinn Sullivan, and Jack Mgclynn are all out on international duty with the USMNT U-20s. In addition to that, Damion Lowe needed to fly back home for a family emergency this week, and the plan is to have him back in Philly for Wednesday’s game. With him traveling, dealing with family issues, and Union only having three CBs on the roster with Brandan Craig on international duty, I highly doubt we’ll see the 5-3-2 Wednesday night.
Jim will probably revert back to the diamond formation, with Uhre and Carranza up top and Gazdag at the 10, With Jesus Bueno suspended for Wednesday’s match, I suspect it’ll be Bedoya and Andres Perea as the two 8’s, and either Leon Flach at the 6, or Jose Martinez if he’s ready enough to start after his injury. The backline will likely consist of Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo/Harriel, and of course Blake in goal.
D.C. should have Benteke back in the lineup, but will likely be without Taxi Fountas for Wednesday’s midweek match. This is a team Union should beat, especially with the recent form they’re on and the momentum they’re building, with nothing but MLS to focus on for a bit. Coming back home, with good weather(fingers crossed), and some of the league’s best fans in attendance, the Union have a great opportunity to keep climbing the table and staking their claim on the Eastern Conference.
I’m looking for Union to pull out a 2-0 win at home against D.C. on Wednesday night. Tune into MLS season pass on Apple TV this Saturday at 7:30 pm to catch the action.
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